Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Baking


I love baking and I am pretty fond of cooking in general.

I had a mom that could sew and could cook or preserve anything and she made sure I was capable of doing those kinds of domestic skills. My Dad made sure I could fix some things and that I was reasonably competent with wood working. My parents both worked and from a very young age I was often responsible for getting dinner on the table.

For many people making a meal is about so much more than sustenance, it is caring and sharing with your family and friends, it is a bit of a creative art and full of memories and love.

I had a period when I was not well enough to cook and it became one of my goals to reclaim those skills. I really did not understand how much it mattered to me until I was unable to do it for myself.
I find the same thing is true with the people I work with.  They might not have the energy or ability to be making meals anymore but that doesn't mean they no longer are interested in cooking and baking. It may have been part of their identity for most of their lives. Others might be new to it. I have had gentlemen join me in baking programs and tell me that they never got a chance to learn to cook because they were out working on the field. They never had the opportunity to learn many of the household skills but they were interested in having a go at it now.

I learned a lot about the very practical and individual skills needed in cooking and organizing from my occupational therapist,  and I feel very privileged to share some of that information and help our residents have a good experience.

I try to add to the practical skills some reminiscence opportunities where they can talk about their past experiences, I try to have it sensory so they can enjoy the colors smells and tastes of the food and supplies as well as to experience the kinetic movements such as stirring. I usually do some research about the ingredients or the foods we are cooking so I can share some knowledge or new ideas. I also try to work in some jokes and laughter. I think one of the most important aspects is in the sharing. When we work together and they eventually share the products of our work all of the cooks and bakers are so proud to have contributed and to sit and share with one another.

I have been trying to do seasonal baking at work and at home.

I look for easy recipes that can be broken down into several simple steps that will allow several people to participate. I can bring small groups of residents to the kitchen and use an oven and all the other handy things about a kitchen, I can also do some kinds of cooking closer  to the residents living spaces with the use of kitchen gadgets like slow cookers, toaster ovens and microwave ovens. One of the advantages of cooking on the floor is that the smell of baking is such a wonderful sensory experience and helps create new memories as well as remembering other experiences with home cooking.

In the past month we have made "Strawberry Poke Cake" and "Blueberry Dump Cake" with many more delicious items planned for the summer and fall.

























Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Creating Art


This past week we had an Art Show for the Art Group I coordinate at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba.

We get together every Wednesday morning at the Stroke Recovery center. We put out lots of different art supplies and participants are able to work on anything they want to. This is certainly not an art class but an opportunity for self expression. Some enjoy the details and work on the same project for a period of weeks while others might produce several pieces in a morning.  I try to offer a new idea, technique or medium each month and encourage participants to give it a try. You never know when something new might turn out to be an activity you will love doing. The creative arts have a special role in helping us find joy and well being in our lives.

The group was originally organized by an Art Therapist and focused on a psychological therapeutic model. When she left the group continued on as a social and peer support group that enjoyed creating art. Eventually I began to help with the group. As a Recreation Therapist I try to support the social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs of the group members but always... enjoyment and fun need to be the priorities at our art mornings.

I try to encourage participants to try new things and engage in learning new skills.  We try to use weaker hands and eyes to gain improved control and strength and we try to work on any left neglect issues that might have occured with strokes.

Decision making, focusing attention, spatial processing, sequencing and planning as well as other cognitive skills can begin to improve as we work on creating art. We assist individuals in trying new tricks and adaptive methods to reach their goals. Something as simple as using painters tape can keep the art paper from sliding away and a Masonite board can increase options for supporting the paper at different, more comfortable angles, kind of like a clipboard. That painters tape can even result in an attractive border strip around a painting!

We share our friendship. We express ourselves through conversation and also with our art. We create. We share our accomplishments and we feel proud of what we achieve.

P.S. One of the ladies at the art show said I needed a picture of me at the art show. I was trying to get pictures of my artists but had not even thought of getting a picture of myself. The picture above was Vera's first attempt to take a picture with a phone and I think it is wonderful!




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fish Fry for the Seniors

Yesterday we did an interesting program at work. We had a fish fry lunch!

My co-worker, on this Fathers Day weekend shift, is a man who has a lot of past experience in leading  youth camping and other outdoor programming and he suggested that we go out on our patio and use an old fashioned Colman camp stove to cook up a fish fry! I thought that was pretty brilliant. With my camping experience we were on the same page about what a good experience this could be and how to do it!

My co-worker, D, took care of all the food aspects and I was supposed to do a few fishing games, fishing reminiscence and jokes but we didn't get all those extras fit in. I wound up spending my time inviting residents to join us for lunch and then transporting them to the patio.  I think they couldn't believe I was serious that we were having a cookout.

We have a small but  nicely treed fenced patio that is surprisingly pleasant oasis to have in our downtown facility surrounded by large buildings.  We set up a cooking station and had a picnic table set up with an old green Colman Stove. Our  menu consisted of  batter dipped cod fish fillets, bannock or fry bread and baked beans.  One fun aspect was that D. found some nice divided take out containers that we used as disposable dishes. They were perfect for our outdoor lunch. People loved sitting out on this beautiful day, listening to a favorite CD of country music, watching the camp cooking and eating such a rare style of cooking for a Personal Care Home. 

I was exhausted by 1 pm. so I was really glad we had planned an easy afternoon. My co-worker set up the dining room for watching a movie and put on a Three Stooges marathon DVD. Whoever wanted to watch it could.  This was a good choice because it is a series of very short films and on a day like Fathers Day there is a lot of coming and going of visitors, so it made it easy for people to join in at any point in the program or even for people to come and share a laugh with their loved ones.


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